BY: ADAM SMELTZ
Joe Rockey wants to debate.
More than four months before the November general election, the Republican nominee for Allegheny County executive challenged his Democratic rival, state Rep. Sara Innamorato, to a series of five debates.
“It’s crucial that the public becomes engaged in this contest, and the best way to do that is to put the candidates in front of the voters and have them debate the substantive issues that will determine Allegheny County’s future,” Mr. Rockey said in a statement Wednesday. “I’m calling on local broadcasters to step up and help make this series of debates happen.”
The Innamorato campaign didn’t provide a direct response to Mr. Rockey but said she “looks forward to continuing the conversation with voters every single day until Election Day,” WESA reported.
Ms. Innamorato, during the Democratic primary race, “already engaged in more than 20 forums and debates in every corner of the county, [and] published policy proposals to improve working people’s quality of life on her website,” the campaign told the radio station.
A former PNC executive, Mr. Rockey ran unopposed for the GOP nomination in the May primary election. His campaign said he wants debates with Ms. Innamorato, D-Lawrenceville, to focus on economic development, human services, public safety, county tax policies and good governance.
He sent Ms. Innamorato a letter Wednesday asking her to agree to the events, his campaign said.
It’s a familiar tack: Challengers and candidates in weaker positions tend to leverage such requests to pressure incumbents or better-positioned rivals into the ring. In her first run for state House in 2018, Ms. Innamorato herself challenged then-incumbent Rep. Dom Costa, D-Stanton Heights, to debate.
That didn’t happen after Mr. Costa said he couldn’t make any of five proposed dates. Ms. Innamorato went on to win.
More recently, Stephen A. Zappala Jr., the Allegheny County district attorney, wouldn’t accept an April debate challenge from Democratic primary rival Matt Dugan. Mr. Dugan won the Democratic nomination last month but faces a rematch with Mr. Zappala in November. The incumbent DA, a longtime Democrat, won the Republican nomination through write-in votes.
Ms. Innamorato, who beat five rivals in the Democratic primary for executive, has already appeared on stage with Mr. Rockey. He and Democratic candidates participated in a variety of joint forums before the May 16 primary.
In Democratic-friendly Allegheny County, Ms. Innamorato is the widely presumed frontrunner to succeed outgoing County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a term-limited Democrat. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county by roughly two to one.